“Park Angels” Take Flight: Organization Introduces New Faces of Charleston Park Preservation

CHARLESTON, S.C.—The Charleston Parks Conservancy, an organization dedicated to upgrading City of Charleston parks and green spaces and rallying community support and pride behind the effort, is adding a few more angels to the Holy City. The organization has selected six volunteers to become its lead “park angels” who will head the charge to create a sustained movement behind preserving and beautifying Charleston parks.

Selected after an extensive application process, these individuals who range in age, profession and residence, will serve as ambassadors for the Conservancy and help recruit additional volunteer “angels.” At a special breakfast Oct. 22, they will be introduced to City of Charleston Parks Department employees, and Charleston Mayor Joe Riley will also be made an honorary “park angel.”

Modeled after the successful Central Park Conservancy, which helped revive and renew a run-down New York City park with public support, the Charleston Parks Conservancy, founded by South Carolina businesswoman Darla Moore and announced earlier this year, is the first such organization to elevate its volunteers by allowing them to help directly guide the direction of the organization and serve as its public face.

“We see the Park Angels as the heart and soul of our whole cause,” says Jim Martin, executive director of the Charleston Parks Conservancy. “Our parks and trees will be here long after all of us are gone, and we are hoping to create a movement that will last generations, as well. We absolutely can’t do that without the passionate commitment of these dedicated Charlestonians.”

The six individuals chosen to lead the Park Angels volunteer force bring that passion, commitment — and genuine enthusiasm — to their new roles. They include:

  • Hailing from Fairfax, Va., Park Angel Jessi Hall brings energy, a gift for storytelling and a lifetime of service to her role with the Conservancy. In her job as a commercial real estate broker for Beach Commercial, a division of the Beach Company, she has demonstrated her profound interest in the environment and sustainability, currently working toward her LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) accreditation. She currently lives West of the Ashley in Charleston.
  • Theresa Evans, a native Charlestonian and former Charleston Junior Gardener, was chosen not only for her leadership experience but also her demonstrated ability to “make things happen” and foster an atmosphere of fun and learning. Evans is a licensed real estate broker with Carolina One Real Estate and divides her time between a historic home in downtown Charleston and a country home on Wadmalaw Island.
  • Mary “Neves” Richards, a lifelong Charlestonian, has good reason to care deeply about city parks. She explains, “Every big decision I’ve made has been on a park bench.” Richards earned her degree in parks, recreation and tourism management from Clemson University and has managed events and volunteers for several organizations, including the Family Circle Cup. She’s an active volunteer and community leader with organizations, such as the Charleston Animal Society and the French Huguenot Church Children’s Program, who lives on James Island.
  • Park Angel Fran Hummel brings a serious green thumb to the role of Park Angel. A graduate of the Master Gardener program, Hummel, who works for Koenig Construction, says she just “loves to get her nails dirty.” She volunteers with the Fields to Families program and the Magnolia Gardens greenhouse. Her experience as an elementary school art teacher polished her natural ability to lead, teach and mentor. She and her husband live West of the Ashley in Charleston.
  • As a fairly recent transplant to Charleston, Janie Larkin Miller brings a fresh — and cosmopolitan — perspective to the Park Angels team. Thanks to her artistic career as a designer of fabrics, Miller has lived all over the world, including Paris, New York and China. In her hometown of Greenwich, Conn., Miller was a member of the Green Fingers Garden Club, where she directed the annual flower show. She also operates an interior design firm and lives in downtown Charleston.
  • Park Angel Cathy Kleiman is more than just a native Charlestonian — she’s a seventh-generation Charlestonian. A passionate gardener, she also holds a master’s degree in city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina. While she is currently CEO for Development Steps, a company which provides development and financing consulting services for the creation of work force housing, affordable housing and mixed income communities, she has also served on several national boards and has extensive volunteer experience. Kleiman lives in Mt. Pleasant.

While these six individuals will lead the outreach efforts for the Park Angels team, the Conservancy is looking for additional “angels” to serve as volunteers for tasks that range from rallying funds and spreading the word to actual “digging in dirt.” For more information about becoming a park angel, visit www.parkangels.org.

About the Charleston Parks Conservancy The Charleston Parks Conservancy, founded in May 2007 by prominent businesswoman Darla Moore, is an organization dedicated to improving Charleston’s city parks and green spaces. In a public/private partnership with the City of Charleston, the Conservancy, lead by Executive Director Jim Martin and its volunteer force of “park angels,” will work on projects at the more than 120 city parks across James Island, the Charleston peninsula, West Ashley and Daniel Island. For more information on the Charleston Parks Conservancy, please visit www.charlestonparksconservancy.org .


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